Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Take the women into the armed service, who then will do the cooking, the washing, the mending, the humble and homey tasks to which every woman has devoted herself? From the mouth of a man who was against women joining the Armed Forces of the United States during World Wars I (WWI) and II (WWII) (Monahan). In 1917, thousands of women served during World War I (WWI), constantly fighting a battle to become part of the United States Army, a battle they were not winning (Monahan).
They were nursing, supporting and helping the military forces overseas, but they were not recognized. During that time period many Army Officers put formal requests into the War Department to allow the recruitment and enlistment of women, trying to create a bill to establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, disagreed with this suggestion of a bill and the requests to establish a women’s service corps within the U. S. Army (Monahan).
After the war was over the push for a WAAC was forgotten, out of sight out of mind, until World War II. The basis of the WAAC was to allow women into the Army and to try to create an equal environment for men and women from which the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence says we are built upon. When WWII kicked off women were not considered part of the Army, but they were allowed to help with many different roles. This time period posed many opportunities for American women, both domestically as well as roles they could play in the war.
A big issue that dominated women’s lives during this period was how to combine home-life with the new demands of the war economy in the public’s eyes. Women had made a few gains between WWI and WWII in the military in terms of the political influence; female workers were utilized for short-term gains during the war, with a long-term goal of seeing women return to the domestic sphere and reinforcing traditional gender roles (Crockrord).
Women who chose to help the military in times of war had to obtain their own food and quarters, they had no legal protection or medical care and most importantly they were not entitled to any type of disability benefits or pensions the Veterans were entitled to (Holm). Congresswoman, Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts was determined to change this, she introduced a bill on May 28, 1941, to establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and the bill eventually succeeded because there was no hint of full status for women; which meant women would be ecognized as supporting the Army but they would still not be a part of the Army (Holm). She felt women and men should have the same benefits and should be treated equally. When the final bill for the WAAC was presented both sides had to compromise, the women and the men’s side serving in the military (Bellafaire). The bill passed, and the bill passing meant that women would be allowed to serve with the Army but they still would not receive the same pay or promotions and lot of the benefits that the men received. They did however receive food, uniforms, living quarters, minimal pay and medical care.
There was also a lot of focus on preventing women from attaining high rank and on placing women in positions where they could give orders to men (Bellafaire). For example, although the duties of a WAAC first officer were comparable to those of a male captain, she received pay equivalent to that of a male first lieutenant (Bellafaire). Unfortunately, there were still many things that women had to overcome serving with the military. Men constantly criticized female soldiers, saying that they needed to be home with their family and community.
They didn’t want a change and women in the military represented just that. The Office of Censorship ran a pole and discovered 84 percent of soldiers’ letters mentioning the WAAC were unfavorable (Bellafaire). They were questioning the moral values of women attracted to the military service and passed these beliefs to their families at home (Bellafaire). One of the biggest challenges that were faced with the WAAC was the rumors. Most of the rumors were started because they many were trying to force women back to “their domestic lifestyles” (Bellafaire).
Many men started to say women of the WAAC were pregnant or were prostitutes; the women were often returned home based on the rumors and not factual evidence (Bellafaire). One story that was told was that any soldier seen dating a WAAC would be seized by Army authorities and provided with medical treatment (Bellafaire). Though there were many rumors about the WAAC and they were under serious scrutiny, Congress opened a hearing in March 1943 on the conversion of the WAAC into the Regular Army, hoping that it would help to mitigate the rumors and help the women become more of an integral part of the Army (Holm).
Army leaders asked for the authority to convert the WAAC into the Women’s Army Corps, which would be part of the Army itself rather than merely serving with it (Holm). On July 3, 1943 the WAC was signed into law and all WAAC’s were given the choice of joining the Army as a member of the WAC or returning to civilian life. Many decided to join, 25 percent decided to leave the service (Bellafaire). Women in the military have been an instrumental part of our history. The WAAC was the first step for them becoming part of the military.
Looking at the bigger picture, whether women were a part of the WAAC, the WAC or just the plain old Army today there will always be a place for women. Even in today’s world women constantly have to fight for their roles and to prove themselves. The Declaration of Independents states, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal (Jefferson), “men” is all people, including women. It is always a constant battle for equality, the WAAC was a positive step in that direction and it has only gotten better. Works Cited
Bellafaire, Judith. “The Women’s Army Corps: A Commemoration of World War II Service. ” www. history. army. mil/brochures/WAC/WAC. htm. CHM Publication, 17 Feb. 2005. Web. 29 June 2012. Crockrord, Vanessa. “Oveta Culp Hobby and Her “Lieutenants” Transformational Leadership in Action in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps of World War II. ” Dissertation. 2003. Electronic. 29 June 2012. Holm, Jeanne. Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution. Novato: Presidio Press, 1982. Print. Monahan, Evelyn. A Few Good Women. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.
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